Have You Seen This New Viral Video?

Scrolling through Facebook, it doesn’t take long before you stumble upon a video featuring someone holding their cat up and having them “dance” to music, where someone is trying to get a reaction out of their cat if they poke them or say something in a different voice, scaring pets intentionally, or even all the videos of cucumbers behind cats.

The media is full of viral videos featuring animals because people find them cute and funny. However, many of these videos present a welfare concern to animals. They are harassed solely for the entertainment of the people who are supposed to be taking care of them and ensuring their well-being.  

Some people may wonder where the harm in a little “play” with the cat is, but I assure you that the cat is not playing.

How do I know this? By reading body language and calming signals. All too often, trainers and behaviorists cringe at these viral videos as they watch the stressed pet trying to communicate their discomfort with the person. Especially in videos where the person is trying to evoke aggressive behavior, ignoring calming signals can be dangerous.

Graphic by  Lili Chin

Graphic by Lili Chin

Animals show their discomfort through body language, as they cannot speak to tell you how they are feeling. Learning the body language of your cat is extremely important because they will generally communicate multiple signals before they bite. Many of these videos put animals into positions where they feel threatened.  

  • Tense bodies

  • Crouched

  • Ears flattened back

  • Ears flicking back and forth

  • Dilated pupils

  • Tail flicking or twitching side to side or tucked

  • Tail bristling (puffed out)

  • Vocalizations (yowling, hissing, growling)

  • Sudden excessive grooming

  • Turning away from you

The cultural acceptance of these videos is very concerning. According to the World Health Organization, there are 400,000 cat bites reported in America each year, with 66,000 emergency department visits. Not to mention that the videos are incredibly accessible for anyone to see. The pets in these videos may be giving tons of stress signals, but not actually bite the person harassing them. However, others may view these and try it with their own pets, who may not be as tolerant as the one in the video.   

There are only so many hours in the day. Even less hours are dedicated to interacting with our pets. So why not spend those hours enriching their lives through positive interactions, puzzles, training, or walks, rather than creating viral videos of stressed pets. 

Interact with your pets in a way that you can both be happy, and set a model of proper animal husbandry, if not for your friends, then for the little kid who is going to try it on their pet and get bit.

For ideas on fun activities with your pet, check out these links below:

Staying Busy Not Bored: Cat Enrichment Ideas

Keeping Your Raw Fed Cat Busy

What? Why Train a Cat

Water Works: 5 Summer Games for Your Cat